By Evan DeSimone
Sources close to the deal report that NBCUniversal, the film and television unit of telecom giant Comcast, has a informal agreement to claim a stake in the millennial-savvy web publisher. Reports also suggest that the deal would allow early BuzzFeed investors to sell off shares in the booming media outlet in secondary sales linked to the transaction.
Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti was also instrumental in launching digital news giant Huffington Post
Launched in 2006 by entrepreneur and Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed was originally conceived as a viral lab designed to experiment with shareable web content. Those experiments proved a success, and BuzzFeed is currently one of the world’s largest producers of web content, boasting 192 million monthly unique visitors. In August 2014, BuzzFeed spun off its video division into Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, a full-fledged digital content studio producing everything from short form web video to television and film, backed by a $50 million investment from from Andreessen-Horowitz. The company also recently launched the non-native content division BuzzFeed Distributed, which produces content for social networks, and a media technology incubator, the latter of which operates out of its San Francisco bureau.
Digital video pioneer Ze Frank heads Buzzfeed’s growing video division, Buzzfeed Motion Pictures
BuzzFeed’s rapid growth and millennial cache is reportedly what drew the eye of NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke, but it’s not the only web property on the company’s menu. NBCUniversal is also said to be eyeing a major investment in Washington D.C.-based Vox Media, the owner of popular web properties like The Verge, Polygon, Curbed, Eater, Vox.com, SBNation and Re/Code.
Launched under the unassuming name Sports Blogs, Inc. Vox Media now operates some of the web’s trendiest media brands
Representatives from NBCU, BuzzFeed and Vox have all declined to comment on the possibility of a deal, but the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the cable giant was looking for digital publishing partners who could expand its web content distribution options
The deal is reminiscent of several recent investments by cable and traditional media brands in high growth web publishers. Last year, the Disney and Hearst co-venture A&E invested $250 million in New York based media brand Vice. Disney also reportedly made a play for BuzzFeed in 2014, only to balk at the rumored $1 billion price tag. Disney would go on to buy multi-channel Maker Studios for $500 million, with a potential payout of $950 million.